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The Edge of Our Bodies
Playwright Adam Rapp writes in a credible if literary way, from inside the skin of a 16 year old girl. In her diary Bernadette records her acute observations and her participation in a number of interactions on a day when she played hooky from school in Connecticut and took the Amtrak to New York to find her boyfriend and tell him something very important.
For a good portion of the time Nicole Erb, as Bernadette, looks down and reads aloud from her diary. She reads well, with excellent articulation, offering a once-removed view of her life and describing events with great precocity mixed with adolescent opacity. In a desperate situation, and unable to reach her boyfriend, who seems not to want to be reached, Bernadette’s emotions sometimes break through as she tells her story. In a key scene she partly acts out a visit to her boyfriend’s critically ailing father, who makes an impression on her as he gets "all metaphysical" and says he feels he’s able to get outside his body and just float there.
Bernadette briefly re-enacts a couple of fleeting moments from her role in her high school’s production of Genet’s The Maids,. It’s not clear for a long time that the set we are seeing, where she has come to read and get on with her life, is her high school stage.
In Rapp’s rather Genet-like play structure, Bernadette’s gestures are not actual current gestures, but representations of gestures that she or others made in past interactions or that she acted out in the school play. For this reason and also because much is read, this performance is distanced and feels more like an adapted short story.
After noting the small, precise set and getting acclimated to the actress, it’s easy for audience members to close their eyes at times, like relaxing and listening to an audio book while someone else drives the car. There are small moments, however, where the piece takes flight and it’s a good idea to open your eyes in case a surprise flourish briefly pulls Bernadette out of her reminiscences and helps to keep the performance afloat. Overall, however, the nicely acted and beautifully written account of a poor young thing suffers from a limited range. On stage the relatively low contrast between various story segments needs ratcheting up, for vivid descriptive, twice-told vernacular is not enough to sustain attentive, involved interest.
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Book of Mormon -CD
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